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NBC to Enter All-Local-News Arena

Posted by Mort Greenberg on May 10, 2008

Article Source: http://wsj.com

By REBECCA DANA
May 8, 2008; Page B10

General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal is starting a 24-hour local news network in New York, in what could be the first of several such channels around the country. NBC hopes the network will draw in new viewers and help the company weather a weak local TV advertising market that has depressed revenue at many of its individual stations.

The 24-hour “hyper-local” news network will launch on the digital tier in November and share newsgathering resources with WNBC, New York’s NBC-owned station, which will continue to have its own daily newscasts.

The new network will face competition from several existing 24-hour local news outlets, including Time Warner Inc.’s NY1 network in New York City and Cablevision Systems Corp.’s seven News 12 cable networks in the New York metropolitan area, including Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.

NBC is investing several million dollars in the venture, building a “content center” that will house local TV staff and operations. NBC doesn’t plan to hire a new staff for the channel, but instead said it will retrain its existing staff to produce news for the regular affiliate broadcasts, the 24-hour network and a new version of WNBC’s Web site, to be called NBC New York.

If successful, the New York channel will serve as a model for other markets, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Chicago, where NBC owns the NBC-branded local station. In most smaller markets, the NBC-branded affiliate is owned by another affiliate group.

“We think this will be better for advertisers,” said WNBC General Manager Tom O’Brien. “We’ll be able to aggregate different audiences and create a bigger audience, and that gives us a lot more opportunities to go to the advertising marketplace.”

In an email to his staff Wednesday, NBC local media division President John Wallace said the reorganization “marks an important change in the station’s philosophy in how it serves the community. Rather than focusing on any one distribution platform, WNBC is redesigning its operations to be content-focused rather than platform-driven, something that is essential to ensure long-term growth in today’s media environment.”

Steve Paulus, regional vice president of NY1, said that although his channel is profitable and ad sales are “holding strong if not increasing,” the advertising market for 24-hour local news isn’t notably better than it is for any other local programming.

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